Inyo County feels it can maintain the status quo for senior services in Inyo and Mono counties if it leaves the Inyo-Mono Area Agency on Aging and creates a new “Eastern Sierra Area Agency on Aging.”
The county took another step towards accomplishing that goal on Tuesday, when the Board of Supervisors approved a Proposal for Designation as the area agency on aging for Area 16, which includes both Inyo and Mono.
Inyo County Health and Human Services Director Jean Turner said the Proposal for Designation, which will be reviewed by the California Department of Aging, which as the ultimate authority over area agency on aging organizations, is designed to prove that the county has the ability to adequately provide senior services.
The proposal includes the county’s fiscal records for the past year, a proposed structure for services and other details about how the county envisions the ESAAA.
“This (proposal) does not express any service changes,” Turner said. “We’re not looking at changing anything but the governance structure.”
Basically, the county is proposing to keep all senior services in Inyo and Mono counties as they are today, but will have the Inyo County Board of Supervisors serve as the ESAAA Governing Board.
Currently, the IMAAA program is governed by a Joint Powers Agreement between the two local governments.
Mono County resident and past president of the IMAAA Advisory Council Kathryn Williams pointed out that the proposal’s organizational chart does not include the Benton Senior Center, which is open a few days a week and serves 12 home-delivered meals to residents in Chalfant and Hammil Valley, in addition to serving as an office for Veteran Services meetings.
Turner said that the proposal was based off of what Mono County is currently planning for its senior program and, “Mono staff said they didn’t plan to continue services at the Benton Senior Center.”
She added that, according to the proposal, the Bishop Senior Center could provide the home-delivered meals that Mono County residents living along the U.S. 6 corridor depend on.
For the time being, “we would be following on what the Mono County Board has done for the past several years,” but if the ESAAA is approved by the state the new governing board proposed to be the Inyo County Board of Supervisors can change that, Turner said. “If we are approved, a new four-year plan will be written outlining services, and once that’s done, the new governing board can make changes.”
“This whole proposal is a snapshot in time of the time it is being written,” First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius said, adding that, at the present time, there is a fundamental problem with the area agency on aging program.
“I was very glad to see this come forward,” Arcularius said. “But $60,000 to administer the program? Is there any way to say that $60,000 is inadequate? That’s 50-75 percent of what we need.”
Turner said she recently touched on that subject with representatives from the CDA, and “I was told verbally, that that is not going to change.”
Turner added that she would express the county’s concerns about inadequate funding for administration in the fiscal section of the proposal, and hope the state takes heed.
“We are willing to take this on even with inadequate funding from the state because we are committed to the people it will serve,” Arcularius said. “We’re thrilled about doing the program, but we’re not thrilled about the $60,000” allocated for administration.
It was funding for administering the IMAAA program that started the ball rolling on disbanding the Joint Powers Agreement with Mono County in favor of an Inyo-only administered program.
Last year, county leaders appealed to the Mono County Board of Supervisors, asking them to help cover a share of growing administrative costs.
Mono County declined, and Inyo began exploring its ability to manage a regional senior program on its own. With the IMAAA Joint Powers Agreement coming to a close at the end of this fiscal year, the CDA issued a request for proposals from government and private agencies that may be interested in managing a new area agency on aging for Inyo and Mono counties.
Turner said Inyo provided the only response to the request.
“The CDA would have to pursue other options if Inyo decides to back out,” Turner said.
“I think it is imperative that we move forward,” Arcularius said. “We are doing our best to try to be in control of our own destiny.”